Mam, there are 20 different ways to tie a sari.
Every day is full of lessons. Today was a varied as normal. I’m starting to get a feel for the teaching. A part of me even thinks that I’m good at it…and then I realize the difference between ‘that’ and ‘this’…and I’m jolted back to reality. Regardless of how effective I am, I thoroughly enjoy working with the kids. Today we taught emotions such as happy, sad, grumpy, cold, hot, tired, and fine. I released my inner actress and had a blast acting out these emotions with the kids…laughing with them as they were laughing at me. The one thing that will stick in my brain for the rest of my life is the word ‘mam’. In the US we call our teachers Mrs. Farris, or Ms. Robinson – here – I am not Ms. Ott – or even Ms. Sherry…I am ‘mam’. I believe that I get called mam no less than 200 times a day. “Mam, may I come in” , “Mam, may I leave the room” , “Yes Mam”, “Mam…(proceeded by a paper being shoved in my face so that I will look at it.)”, or my favorite – “Mam…(followed by a long sentence in Hindi that I don’t understand)”
I am starting to feel very comfortable with the older class – they are good kids – and each of them are terrified to stand up in front of the class and speak English aloud. Considering I make them do this all of the time- I think they secretly hate me…but I just keep telling them that they have to practice. I’m sure that they sit around during their tea break and say “Mam is very, very mean”.
The kids have also decided that it’s their responsibity to make sure that my food and drink are taken care of. At every break, they ask if they can bring me coffee or tea. Then they proceed to make fun of me because it takes me so long to drink my coffee. “Mam, you have coffee for 10 minutes and you still not finished.” My answer – Americans multi-task. We never do just one thing like drink our coffee. Instead – we drink our coffee while checking papers, or we eat our lunch at the computer while we are working on a lesson plan. They think this multi-tasking is funny and they proceed to laugh at me. Today as I was leaving one of them stopped me…”Mam, wait.” Proceeded by taking me by the arm and into a lounge room where a young boy was making a individual little plates of treats – somosas and little honey balls with a small cup of Pepsi. They gave me a plate with a piping hot somosa. I asked them what the occasion was – and found out that the young boy who was dishes out the tasty food had just purchased a bike and he brought in food to celebrate this momentous occasion. Wow….that was my only reaction. You have to love a culture that celebrates every occasion with food.
This afternoon our volunteer organization, CCS, held a ‘ladies night’. Of course I was secretly hoping that this meant free flowing vodka and scantily clad men – but no such luck. CCS had brought in some lovely women to talk to us about the marriage rituals in India. Basically – they showed us what it was like to be an Indian Bride. One of my fellow volunteers, JoAnna, was our ‘Indian’ bride and she was put through al of the ritualistic preparations that any Indian girl would have done on her wedding day. Makeup, hair, jewels, bindis, sari, more jewels, and henna. We learned that there are actually 20 different ways to tie a sari. I would need a personal assistant to dress me every day if I wore a sari – a sar is made up of 6 yards of fabric…that’s equates to a lot of wrapping!
Finally – a few of us went to a local family’s house for dinner. Lalit – the neighborhood tailor – graciously invited all of us over to his house to meet his family and have dinner. We have been going to his shop to get some of our work clothes tailored and we struck up a friendship through his good English skills. He lives in Old Delhi, so he even had a driver come pick us up and bring us back. Once again – I was absolutely blown away by the Indian hospitality. This was a very different experience from the night before – but the experience tonight was probably more typical of Indian family life. Lalit did not have any ‘servants’ that he employed in his home, and he lived with his whole extended family including his 80 year old mother. The whole family waited on us the throughout the evening and provided us an amazing meal. Lalit sat at the table with us and ate dinner with us – the rest of the family watched and served us. He said that they would eat afterward. I’m not sure if this was custom when they have guests, or if it was because they had no more chairs. The whole experience was rather surreal – and so very culturally different than America. I don’t feel comfortable having people wait on me – but yet I know that this is their culture and it’s best to not fight it, but try your hardest to simply accept it and fit into it the best you can. What may be considered uncomfortable for one person is acceptable to another.
Another day, another day of varied experiences….